{Review/Excerpt/Giveaway} WITCHLINGS by Claribel A. Orteg

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

 IT WAS THE NIGHT of the Black Moon Ceremony, and the very last thing Seven Salazar wanted was to be a Spare witch. Now that she was twelve, she'd be placed in her coven, but like every ceremony before, tonight three witches would be left over: Spares. Nobody ever wanted to be a Spare....

(Page 1, US hardcover edition)

Last year, Claribel A. Ortega's WITCHLINGS came out and was instantly embraced and featured at stores and come Favorite Books of the Year time. It has been on my radar to pick up for a while, and with the sequel set to release next week, what better time than now??

If you've already read WITCHLINGS and are as anxious as I already am for the sequel, THE GOLDEN FROG GAMES, keep reading after today's review for an EXCERPT from the new book as well as a chance to WIN YOUR OWN COPY! (But maybe don't read the excerpt if you haven't already read the first book because spoilers ^.~)

I love a good middle-grade novel that focuses heavily on friendship. We don't get enough of these. Especially books that feature unlikely friends! WITCHLINGS begins with a rag-tag trio that will warm your hearts and have you rooting for them. We begin with our main character, Seven Salazar, who has a lot of misconceptions about the girls who she'll wind up becoming besties yet. Valley Pepperhorn is a bully that Seven wants nothing to do with. Thorn Laroux is new and while Seven has nothing against her, she's thrown off guard by the way Thorn isn't as serious and quiet as everyone else  at the Black Moon Ceremony that will change all of their lives. At the Ceremony, Witchlings discover what their life-long coven will be, and the trio is surprised to find that they are Spares, left over Witchlings who weren't placed into a coven. Seven invokes an ancient magic and asks to solve an impossible task together with the other Spares to save herself from the fate of the magickless, never realizing that she's about to change not only her own preconceived notions, but those of everyone in the Twelve Towns.

There is so much imagination and fun that went into the world-building of WITCHLINGS, which is held together at its core with clever, witty characters and the unbreakable growth of true, lasting friendship. There are some darker issues at its heart as well, and some of the girls have dark skeletons in their closets that could turn them cold and bitter were it not for one another. The book doesn't gloss over the problems, but points out their wrongness and has a plethora of supporting characters to shine the way forward.

There are also fun settings that help weave the world together -- I especially love Miss Dewey and her library. Miss Dewey (For Dewey Decimal, of course!) rightfully keeps winning the Best Darn Librarian Award, and I really wish her library existed in my town. She has these awesome MAKLs (Magical archiving knowledge locators) that do things like "helping people find 'that one book with the blue cover,' or 'that one mystery about the lady on the train.'" Having been a bookseller and having worked in a library, MAKLs would be the best invention, and I seriously want Miss Dewey to teach me how to get that magical technology rolling here!

Kids looking for a fun new adventure and an ongoing series where they can become really invested in the world and the characters that goes a little deeper should definitely check out WITCHLINGS this summer when they're looking for what to pick up next!



Excerpt from 
by Claribel A. Orteg


Excerpt for Rockstar Book Tours



Deep in the shadows of the Cursed Forest stood Seven Salazar and her secret. It was a terrible secret and a dangerous one, but right now Seven had other things to worry about. Namely, the flock of skeleton birds with razor-sharp beaks and glowing red eyes that kept diving at her from the tippy tops of the Strangling Figs. Cymric Rune, the Hastings-on Pumpkins Uncle, cleared his throat. 

“Hmmm. This should not be that complicated.”

“It should be easy to summon birds,” Sybell the Oracle said, from where they were draped on a mossy log like some sort of model.

“Why don’t you try again?” Cymric said softly, before shooting the Oracle a weary glance.

Seven nodded once, then raised her hands toward the trees, which were bathed in the eerie purple light of the early morning, and spoke.


A few seconds passed in tense silence, but then like every time before, instead of summoning normal birds, her magic brought the flock of skeleton creatures toward her. They pecked at her scalp and any exposed skin before spewing disgusting goo all over her. It burned like hex.

“Rats!” yelled Seven, waving her arms wildly to get the green slime off and stop the sting.

“The healing mushrooms, Seven, quickly!” cried Cymric.

“Surely she can pull off this simple spell,” muttered the Oracle.

“Hongos!” said Seven, throwing her hands up and out.

The earth rumbled slightly, and for a moment, Seven thought she might’ve gotten it right. Instead, a sound like a balloon deflating fizzled in the distance and her magic failed. Again.

“Hongos.” The Oracle waved their hand lazily in Seven’s direction as they flipped through an issue of Teen Witch! magazine. From a distance, the whispering of leaves approached. The whispers turned into violent rustles that shook the forest around them. A batch of multicolored cura-shrooms emerged from between the twisted trees and zoomed right at Seven. They hung suspended in the air around her, then each cura-shroom exploded like a firework, a chalky poof filling the air with rainbow smoke. Purple, green, and pink dust settled on Seven, and instantly her blistering skin was healed.

“See?” The Oracle licked their finger and turned another glossy page. “Easy.”

Sometimes Seven Salazar wished the Nightbeast had never spoken to her. Right now, covered in dust and goo, in the middle of the Cursed Forest, her body weary with exhaustion, was one of those times.

Excerpt from Claribel A. Orteg's THE GOLDEN FROG GAMES,

reprinted with permission from Scholastic Press.

All rights reserved.



Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: --
Language: G  ( Heck had froxen over, froggin', froggin' hex )
Violence: G  ( Some blood when the characters are kiling some beasties )
Other:  PG ( One of the characters has an abusive father and has been starved as punishment; one character's twin died before the book begins and is mentioned; a secondary charcter is treated poorly by her employer on the page )
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

These covers are so fun and colorful and bright! I love seeing the characters front and center in all their glorious, quirky detail! I love the peeks in the background at the settings in which our characters find themselves, as well as a glimpse of the magical beasties that will be encountered. These are great and eye-catching and just plain fun!


O F F I C I A    I N F O:

Author: Claribel A. Orteg
Release Date: April 5, 2022
Publisher: Scholastic Press

A magical adventure for fans of Amari and the Night Brothers and Nevermoor, about three witchlings who must work together to do the impossible if they have any hope of earning their full powers.

Every year, in the magical town of Ravenskill, Witchlings who participate in the Black Moon Ceremony are placed into covens and come into their powers as full-fledged witches.

And twelve-year-old Seven Salazar can't wait to be placed in the most powerful coven with her best friend! But on the night of the ceremony, in front of the entire town, Seven isn't placed in one of the five covens. She's a Spare!

Spare covens have fewer witches, are less powerful, and are looked down on by everyone. Even worse, when Seven and the other two Spares perform the magic circle to seal their coven and cement themselves as sisters, it doesn't work! They're stuck as Witchlings—and will never be able to perform powerful magic.

Seven invokes her only option: the impossible task. The three Spares will be assigned an impossible task: If they work together and succeed at it, their coven will be sealed and they'll gain their full powers. If they fail... Well, the last coven to make the attempt ended up being turned into toads. Forever.

But maybe friendship can be the most powerful magic of all… 

 With action-packed adventure, a coven of quirky witchlings, Claribel A. Ortega's signature humor and girl-power vibes, this middle grade Latine witch story is truly a modern classic.

Author: Claribel A. Orteg
Release Date: May 2, 2023
Publisher: Scholastic Press

Get ready for more magic, mayhem, and monstruos! From Claribel A. Ortega, author of Frizzy and Ghost Squad, comes the sequel to the instant New York Times bestselling and #1 Indie bestselling Witchlings.

Every four years, the Twelve Towns gather for a legendary magical tournament--the Golden Frog Games.

With Ravenskill hosting this year's games, all eyes are on Seven Salazar, Valley Pepperhorn and Thorn Laroux: the most famous Spares in the Twelve Towns. Thorn is ready to compete as a fashion champion, but when a forbidden hex is used to turn her fellow champions to stone, suspicion lands on the Witchlings.

As the Witchlings attempt to unravel the mystery of the stonifications, future Uncle Seven is harboring a dangerous secret: While she's supposed to be able to communicate with animals, the voices she hears most clearly belong to monstruos, and one spine-chilling voice is the loudest of all.

Can Seven fix her broken magic and find out who is stonifying the champions . . . before Thorn becomes the next victim?



Claribel A. Ortega, New York Times bestselling author of Ghost Squad, Witchlings, and Frizzy (Pura Belpre Award-winner), is a former reporter who writes middle grade and young adult fantasy inspired by her Dominican heritage. When she's not busy turning her obsession with eighties pop culture, magic, and video games into books, she's cohosting her podcasts Write or Die and Bad Author Book Club and helping authors navigate publishing with her consulting business, GIFGRRL. Claribel has been featured on BuzzFeed, NPR, Good Morning America, and Deadline. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok at @Claribel_Ortega and on her website at claribelortega.com.  



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